How to see dolphins near Inverness in Scotland: plus when the best time is to go!

I find it hard to put in words sometimes how amazing it was to see dolphins quite so close up as I did in Scotland once. I knew they were there, I knew you could see them close, but I still expected them to be a dot in the sea! I didn’t imagine I’d be able to see them so close that I could look them in the eye!

Ever since the magic of that first day seeing them so close, every time we’re near Inverness we always try and go to that spot to see if we are lucky again. Mostly we are – the bottlenose dolphin pods are seen most of the year round! Best bit – you don’t have to go on a boat (although you can do that too)

If you’re wondering how to see dolphins near Inverness then read on for my tips on where to go and different ways to see them!

The images on this page, while not professional by any means (!!!), were all taken by me or James while at Chanonry Point.

dolphins near Inverness
Bottlenose dolphins near Inverness – taken at Chanonry Point

A note from the writer: Hey! I’m Kirsty and I’m a UK travel expert – while I grew up in Scotland, as an adult I now return to visit almost every year – there’s so much to see! Shout (or comment below) if you have any questions about your next trip and I’ll get back to you ASAP.

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Where can I see dolphins near Inverness

There are a few different places where you can do dolphin watching near Inverness – they are seen around the Moray Firth which is the river estuary leading out to the North Sea.

The most common and well known place is Chanonry Point near the village of Rosemarkie on the Black Isle (not an island – you can drive there!). Honestly, I’d say it was the best place for seeing dolphins – you can see them without disturbing them and quite often too.

Another spot is Merkinch Nature reserve which has views over the Moray Firth.

If you happen to be on the other side of the Moray Firth and exploring Fort George then you can also see them from there, although you might need some binoculars to get a good view.

Check the map out for some of my favourite spots to see dolphins around the Inverness area:

When is the best time to see dolphins near Inverness?

The dolphins are seen year round on the coast of Scotland near Inverness but there are certain times of the year where they are easier to spot and more frequently seen.

The summer months are the peak times to see them and if you want to see them close up like I did at Chanonry Point then it’s also worth checking the tide times for a specific time of day to see them.

The best time of day to see dolphins at Chanonry Point near Inverness is when the tide is rising. 1 hour after low tide is a good reference point to aim for.

The dolphins come to this point as it’s where the firth meets the sea and there’s a natural bottleneck. Fish are easy to find here and so it’s a natural hunting ground for the dolphins. It also makes timing your visit a little easier too.

dolphin spotted near inverness
We just caught its tail! Taken at Chanonry Point, near Inverness

For those who would like the chance of seeing dolphins but don’t have transport – this tour from Inverness might be worth considering and includes other local sights as well.

Best spots for watching dolphins near Inverness

These are my top 4 spots for trying to spot dolphins in the Moray Firth:

  1. Chanonry Point
  2. Fort George
  3. North Kessock Pier
  4. Merkinch Nature Reserve

Chanonry Point, near Fortrose on the Black Isle

This is the best place to see dolphins near Inverness. It’s where I always aim to visit and where I think I’ve only ever not seen them once (out of the prime season).

The best time to visit here for seeing dolphins is around an hour after low tide. This means it will change daily. You might want to arrive around low tide to give you the best chance of seeing them. especially if you have time to hang around.

The dolphins love to come so close to the land – it’s the best place to see them from the shore. You can see them jumping in the air, frolicking and being playful – they are truly a joy to see!

The spit of land by Chanonry Point lighthouse is ever changing with the tides so, especially if you arrive when the tide is coming in, watch your belongings and your feet. I’ve watched a photographer ruin his kit as he’d not moved it in time!

The downside of Chanonry Point is that as it’s so popular the car park can become very busy, especially in the summer months. You might like to arrive early or do what we do which is park in Rosemarkie, visit the village shops and walk along the beach to the point. This is a good way to support the local communities too. You’ll find small shops with local food, restaurants and cafes.

Rosemarkie is also a good place to stay if you want to be close by to dolphin spotting, perhaps if you’re a photographer wanting to visit often. It’s walkable and a lovely wee village too. There’s also the Fairy Glen waterfall too to enjoy.

We’ve stayed at the campsite there which has sea great views, but there are also hotels and guest houses in the village. Here are a few to check out

Looking out from the ramparts at Fort George to spot dolphins
We didn’t see any dolphins on our visit to Fort George but you can see them there

Fort George

On the opposite shore to Chanonry Point, Fort George is a good place to go if you want to combine some history with a bit of dolphin spotting too!

Fort George was the army barracks built after the Battle of Culloden (and as such this makes a great Outlander site for fans) and there’s a lot to explore for those interested in a bit of military history.

For nature lovers and those wanting to spot dolphins (which I assume is you since you’re reading this post!) you can keep an eye out for dolphins from the ramparts of the fort. There’s also a cafe to get some food while you’re watching. Since it’s the other side of Chanonry Point keep an eye on tide times – around low tide and an hour after could be good.

You will need to pay an entrance fee for the Fort George site – it’s a Historic Scotland site so free for members.

North Kessock Pier

The village of North Kessock lies just north of Inverness, over the Kessock bridge. There used to be a Dolphin and Seal centre and lookout near the bridge which was run by the WDC but unfortunately that’s closed now.

The dolphins don’t know that the lookout is gone though and you can still see them from the shores of North Kessock. I suggest heading into the village and parking up looking over the water. Get yourself some food from one of the local establishments – there’s a cafe, fish and chips and a small shop too – and park yourself on a bench to see if you can find any dolphins!

Merkinch Local Nature Reserve

Finally, and closer to the city of Inverness and walkable is Merkinch Local Nature Reserve.

It’s a small natural area on the banks of the Beauly Firth – same stretch of water but a different name here! You might see all sorts of Scotland’s wildlife as well as being well placed to see dolphins as they swim upriver. It’s not as easy to figure out the best times here but it’s a pleasant day out in any case.

Since it’s so close to Inverness it’s good if you don’t have your own transport. It’s easy to walk to from Inverness but you can also take public transport which will drop you off at the reserve – you’ll want bus number 3. There’s a car park nearby for those driving.

Boat trips to see dolphins from Inverness

There are also a number of local businesses offering boat trips to spot not only dolphins but seals and a host of other sea life. Boats aren’t restricted to certain times to see the dolphins as they can find them wherever they are. They also don’t necessarily need good weather. Still not guaranteed but can definitely provide a different perspective and experience!

Here are some dolphin spotting boat trips near Inverness to check out:

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Kirsty Bartholomew

Kirsty Bartholomew is a travel expert and has been getting lost around the world for over 30 years and writing about it for over 10 of those. She loves to help people explore her favourite places in Scotland, England and beyond. She cannot stay away from historical sites.

2 thoughts on “How to see dolphins near Inverness in Scotland: plus when the best time is to go!”

    • Hi Julia, thanks for the comment. Yes you should be able to – there’s the beach to walk along and it’s dog friendly as well as a footpath.


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